his weekend’s forecast — the first cool weather in months — means change. September can offer the most beautiful, crystal clear days, or it can be smoky, or it can remind us of the cold weather that is coming. Part of the wonder and joy of September is the uncertainty.
Hunters are excited by the cooling weather. The animals sense it and prepare, changing their habits. Backpackers and hikers must adjust their thinking also.
Last night, I lay awake wondering how much snow we would get this weekend at 11,000 feet — worrying that a season of adventuring could end early.
It’s been a good year, so I’m loathe to let it go.
Just this past weekend I slept along a drainage below tree line, at a hub of busy wildlife.
Three silent bow hunters came out of the trees just after dusk. The elk were bugling by three in the morning, the mountain bluebirds couldn’t stop chattering in excitement and a coyote was chuckling at something in the light of the smoky moon.
At dawn, there were two sets of mama moose — without their kin; it was a hard year for these strong and lovely creatures. Seeing this reminded me how lucky I am to share their home, and to tread softly.
This late in the season, the glacier lakes on our day hike were warm from soaking up the summer sun. We jumped in each one, and I deemed the highest and deepest too pure to need a filter. (We’ll see how that turns out.)
Sometimes heading to the high country gets you above the smoke from the fires. Other times you climb right into it. But you always have those sunsets. What a year for blood orange and fuchsia.
The former director at Sheridan Community Land Trust shared a C.S. Lewis quote with us this week: “It’s funny how day by day, nothing changes. But when you look back, everything is different.”
When backpacking, that’s every step of the way until you turn around to look back at the view from where you stand.
And while the beauty in much of life is in simplicity — the single steps to get you anywhere, the wildlife, the colors, the changing seasons — it isn’t so simple to have and keep such a resource as the Bighorn Mountains.
Looking back, none of this would be possible without Wyoming’s vast and varied public lands, protected precious wilderness areas, trails and sports that connect us with nature, and, of course, the spirit of the people who value and cherish it. Thank you to all the organizations and individuals who work to conserve and create these resources for the enjoyment of future generations. My favorite parts of life have been and continue to be defined by your efforts.
Katie Belton works with the Sheridan Community Land Trust.